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NC State’s Sweet 16 run ‘not smoke and mirrors’

Mar 23, 2012, 6:04 PM EDT

spt-120323-gottfried AP

Mark Gottfried really can’t lose tonight. Even if N.C. State’s NCAA tournament run ends in the Sweet 16 tonight, there’s no doubt he’s fully and completely embraced by his players, Wolfpack fans and his boss, athletic director Debbie Yow.

The regular season had some ups and downs – State is 24-12 and didn’t beat UNC or Duke – but last week’s wins against San Diego State and Georgetown showcased a team that’s peaking and playing together perfectly.

That’s a credit to Gottfried.

“He’s a survivor,” Yow told the Fayetteville Observer. “He balances that voice of experience with this youthful energy and enthusiasm that nothing is impossible. He puts those two traits together, you get a pretty special person and a very special coach. He’s a leader; you can see that the players follow him. They trust him.”

How’d he do it?

“It’s my job to convince my team that we are good enough,” Gottfried told the paper. “We have to become good enough. It’s not smoke and mirrors. It’s not something you can just talk about. We have to get better, and we did get better.”

Friday night’s game against 2-seed Kansas could end that run. The Wolfpack are 8.5-point underdogs. But the future’s bright when you’ve got a coach in hand that starts like this.

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